"So I’m agender, and I’m going to a wedding. I need formal wear, but neither dresses nor suits work for me. I was thinking of just wearing a waistcoat over a dress shirt and pants, along with a tie, but I’m worried that it won’t be formal enough. Are there any other formal clothing options that might work, or should I just go with the possibly informal outfit and hope for the best?"
- Question asked by Anonymous and answered by Anita Dolce Vita as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.
Your question really hits home for me because my partner is currently in the same boat as you. While she identifies as female, she presents as androgynous. (Gender identity and gender expression are two different concepts. They can be related, but do not have to be.) She is filled with dread whenever we get an invitation to a wedding, graduation, or any other event that calls for formal attire because, like you, she does not want to wear a dress, but also feels that suits are too masculine. Conversely, I get super excited for formal events because I love dressing up and I can never turn down a good excuse to shop for a new dress. While I’m happily pursuing stores in search of the perfect dresses and stilettos and chandelier earrings, my partner is following me around, depressed that she cannot find anything to wear. Sometimes, she gets so stressed that it takes the joy out of attending formal events for both of us, because I feel sad and worried when she’s unhappy at the event and the days leading up to it.
Recently, she and I have been throwing around the idea of having a commitment ceremony. Once again, the issue of what she could wear reared its ugly head; It is truly frustrating that clothing options are so limited, narrow, and binary!!! She and another reader inspired me to write a piece on androgynous wedding attirefor dapperQ. This piece may be a good starting point for you. But, as I mentioned to the reader who submitted a similar question, providing individualized wedding attire recommendations is a bit challenging without knowing the general theme of the wedding (colors, setting, flowers, etc.), the level of formality (black-tie, casual, etc.), location (outdoor, indoor, beach, ballroom, city, country, etc.), season (winter, summer, etc.), and your personal style (preppy, street Goth, hipster, etc.) I’m going to give you a few options based on style. I’ve also created a Pinterest mood board to give you a ballpark visual idea of these recommendations, as well as some pattern, color, and texture inspiration.
You mentioned you were going to wear a vest. However, in my opinion, a good blazer or sport coat can be just as formal and gender-neutral as a vest. (Check out dapperQ’s post on the difference between a sport coat, blazer, and suit jacket.) The typical preppy uniform might look something like a button-down shirt under a navy blazer, paired with tan dress trousers and brown dress loafers. But, you can infuse your own personal style in this traditional, preppy template by adding unexpected touches. For example, if you’re comfortable going bold, wear a button-down with a unique pattern or interesting color, like plaid or hot pink, under your navy blazer. Additionally, instead of wearing a necktie or bow-tie, I recommend affixing an eye catching brooch or collar bar where your collar buttons at the top-center of your shirt. An anchor brooch could really drive home a preppy, nautical theme.
There is much debate about what exactly constitutes heritage style (think tweed, corduroy, patterned knits), but the aesthetic is definitely popular now and one you can use as inspiration if you want to stick with a vest rather than wearing a jacket. Opt for a herringbone vest and, as I suggested above, let interesting patterns and colors tell your style story. I personally really like the combination of tweed vests and red or burgundy colored dress trousers. You can go sans tie and add some cool accessories like a vest pocket chain/watch, collar chain (antler collar chains are a fun option for a heritage ensemble), or a stylish lapel pin. Oh, and socks! Don’t forget that you can get a lot of style mileage out of a good pair of patterned socks.
Musicians, artists, and cool hunters can be pretty good at bucking classic styles. If you are bold, fashion-forward, and like to draw outside the lines, you can get really creative. How about a black blazer or vest paired with a leopard print button-down, teal trousers, a collar chain, a homemade lapel pin, and studded dress shoes? Or, go all out power-clashing in a long, tailored black vest, a pair of plaid dress pants, and a polka-dot or stripped button-down? After all, it’s a wedding…not a funeral.